National Adult Safeguarding Agency Urgently Needed

Sage Advocacy urges Safeguarding Ireland and the Departments of Justice and Health to work together following Law Reform Commission safeguarding report

Urgent establishment of an independent ‘National Adult Safeguarding Agency’ is the only appropriate response to today’s launch of the Law Reform Commission’s Report on a Regulatory Framework for Adult Safeguarding – Sage Advocacy has said.

CEO Mervyn Mr Taylor said: “As an organisation deeply involved in safeguarding issues, we urge government to ensure a strong inter-sectoral response by making two key government departments, those of Justice and Health, jointly responsible for progressing its recommendations”.

He also said that Safeguarding Ireland should hold an advisory role in the progressing of adult safeguarding legislation and the development of an independent safeguarding agency.

The comprehensive report recommends new structures, legislation and policies which would strengthen adult safeguarding in Ireland, particularly for adults at greater risk of harm due to a disability, age-related frailty, an acquired brain injury or serious illness.

Sage Advocacy’s Assistant CEO for Case Management Bibiana Savin welcomed the report and in particular highlighted:

  • The recommendation ‘that the Government should consider a comprehensive statutory framework for social care’.  The commencement of the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Acts of 2015 in April 2023, the establishment by Government of a Commission on Care for Older People, plans for legislation on Adult Safeguarding (which form the basis of this report) and for protection of liberty in places of care underline the need for social care legislation. There are currently no statutory provisions for generally assessing care and support needs for adults (including at risk adults), or for meeting those care and support needs when assessed.
  • The setting out of guiding principles to underpin any adult safeguarding legislation to cover: a rights-based approach; empowerment and person-centredness; protection; prevention; proportionality; integration and cooperation and accountability. In particular, Sage Advocacy welcomes Guiding Principle 2 ‘Empowerment and Person-Centredness’ which includes the right to independent advocacy and Guiding Principle 5 ‘Proportionality’ which includes the adoption of a trauma informed approach.
  • The recommendations that Government should ‘adopt a consistent approach to the provision of independent advocacy across all care settings’ and consider ‘whether a form of regulation of independent advocates or independent advocacy services is required’.
  • The recommendations with regard to safeguarding orders and the associated issues of warrants for access to a relevant premises including a private dwelling, removal and transfer orders, no-contact orders and the need in exercising any such powers for the least intrusive means possible to be used.
  • The clear recommendations regarding the role of the Central Bank in preventing and addressing financial abuse.

Mervyn Taylor stated: “Sage Advocacy accepts the need, in the short term, to adopt a pragmatic approach to building institutional capacity to implement the proposed adult safeguarding legislation and to ensure the safeguarding of vulnerable adults who may be at risk of harm, but is concerned that the approach of the LRC Report in suggesting how this capacity should be built leaves it worryingly open to capture by institutional inertia and ongoing budgetary battles, if the National Adult Safeguarding Office of the HSE is used as the base for building any new agency. 

“Sage Advocacy’s experience of supporting and advocating for vulnerable adults, older people and healthcare patients since 2014 leads it to believe that a HSE led adult safeguarding service may not currently have the potential to realise the level of ambition involved in implementing this important report – and urgent work towards an independent National Adult Safeguarding Agency is essential.

“A further issue of concern to Sage Advocacy is the one dimensional approach to the delivery of safeguarding services with constant references to a social work led approach and no meaningful references to the need for a multi-disciplinary (as opposed to a mono-disciplinary) approach. The need for a multi-disciplinary approach is glaringly apparent throughout the report as it is clear that any new agency operating in the context of the proposed legislative framework will require not just social work skills, but crucially policing and health related skills supported by research and forensic financial investigation skills.”

Mr Taylor added that there are some areas in the report that require further consideration.

“A Code of Practice for Independent Advocates has already been developed through the Decision Support Service established under the Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Acts. Sage Advocacy as far back in 2015 published Quality Standards for Support and Advocacy Work with Older People. The establishment of a Safeguarding Agency would provide a coordination mechanism for independent advocacy services with a view to ensuring that quality standards are upheld, and that all advocacy practices are provided with appropriate oversight and that common datasets and equitable funding and resourcing issues are addressed.”

Bibiana Savin concluded by saying that Sage Advocacy looks forward to working with Safeguarding Ireland; the HSE; the Departments of Health, Justice, Finance and Social Protection; the new Policing and Community Safety Authority and the Central Bank in progressing the pathway set out in the report.

“We also look forward to working with public representatives and the institutions of State in shaping and progressing legislation on adult safeguarding and social care, which must become a high priority for all parties represented in the current and future Dáils.”

Further Information

Ronan Cavanagh, Cavanagh Communications: 086 317 9731 /

Sage Advocacy is the National Advocacy Service for Older People. It works to ensure that people have easy access to information, support, independent advocacy and safeguarding services in all settings: homes, day centres, respite facilities, congregated care settings / nursing homes, hospitals, hostels, hospices and in the process of transition between them. It also provides supports to vulnerable adults and healthcare patients in situations where no other service is available to them.

It is currently expanding its services with the support of the Dept of Education to meet the support and advocacy needs of survivors of institutional abuse. Since it was established in 2014, with the support of the HSE and The Atlantic Philanthropies, it has built a strong reputation for independence of thought and action and is a ‘go to’ service in relation to issues of capacity and decision making.

Sage provided information, support and advocacy services to almost 8,000 people in 2023 and demand for its services is growing. The work of Sage on behalf of clients is independent of family, service provider or systems interests. The service is free of charge and confidential. Sage Advocacy ensures that a person’s voice is heard, that their wishes are taken into account and that they are assisted, in whatever ways necessary, to be involved in decisions that affect them. The motto of Sage Advocacy is ‘Nothing about you / without you’.

Responsibility for the overall development and governance of the service rests with the Board of Trustees of Sage Advocacy clg | CRO #610824 | RCN #20162221 | CHY #22308.


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